What’s behind a fence in Sisters
Last updated 1/24/2023 at Noon
Good fences make good neighbors — so the saying goes.
The Nugget’s story last week about the Forest Service mowing the underbrush in the Sisters woods, and thereby making homeless camps more visible, caused some readers to make contact in hopes of adding context to the story.
One was Ashley Okura, one of the family owners of Ponderosa Lodge, the landmark motel at the Barclay/Highway 20 roundabout. Okura explained the long history of the new 1,700-lineal-foot fence being erected around the perimeter at a cost of some $50,000.
She wanted to add context to reporting that the new fence was “partly” to shield the property from illegal camping at the edge of their property.
Okura says the fence will serve many purposes and has been in the works since 2016. She acknowledged that nearby homeless encampments were a source of concern and complaints from some of their guests, most notably those booking suites. The suites are on the end of the building closest to some of the more visible campsites, which are regularly occupied in violation of the 14-day rule.
Per Forest Service regulations, campers are required to vacate a site after 14 days of continuous use and move to a new campsite some distance away. The rule isn’t aimed at the homeless. It was put in place years ago to ensure that campers didn’t hog all the best spots.
Ponderosa Lodge has had difficulty with some — but by no means all — of its homeless neighbors. Law enforcement has on several occasions had to intervene for issues of trespassing or littering. Some thefts have occurred.
The fence is part of a larger process whereby each year Ponderosa Lodge gets a site inspection from Best Western, with whom the motel operates under a branding license. Best Western asked that a new fence be installed, among other routine and periodic improvements.
Okura and her siblings have worked hard to have the fence meet all sorts of needs, not just the practical minimum. Apart from privacy and security for guests, it had to be attractive and blend into the look and style of the existing property and its structures and “feel like Sisters.”
They are spending far more than what would be required by the site review. It’s six feet high, not four like the current fence. It’s stained. And rather than the typical post-and-three-rail wood construction as is typical in Sisters, it will be powder coated, bronze- patina-glazed corrugated steel.
The frame shown here is finished and the steel will be added starting this week. The color is a careful match to the building trim.
The fence was also an opportunity to put some space between the lodge’s east side and a new light-industrial park, which is under construction. The family purchased 50 feet from the industrial park owners and spared a number of old- growth ponderosa pines in the process.
The original four-foot post-and-rail fence is replaced by the new six-foot fence around the entire property except on the front, the Highway 20 side, where the iconic alpacas graze in full view of passersby. The current animal-safe fencing will remain.
The only wrinkle thus far is getting the City to give a variance for 200 feet of the fencing that connects the alpaca enclosure with the west-edge fencing. Ponderosa Lodge wants that to be six feet like the rest of the new fencing, but code says it must be four feet streetside.